Dallas, Collin and Tarrant counties are among 23 Texas counties sending firefighters, equipment and resources to help fight the wildfires in California. Two hundred firefighters from 47 fire departments in Texas are en route to offer their services.
This is the largest mobilization of firefighters and firefighting equipment from Texas to another state, said Mark Stanford, fire chief and associate director at Texas A&M Forest Service.
The firefighters, along with six pieces of equipment, are scheduled to arrive in California by early Wednesday, said Jason Evans, a spokesman from Dallas Fire & Rescue. The members of the Wildland Firefighting specialty team left Dallas at around 5 p.m. Monday.
"We have Dallas firefighters who have family in California or are from California so it's very personal for us." – Dallas firefighter Stephen Bisbee
Dallas firefighter Stephen Bisbee is one of the 16 firefighters headed to California. He said his wife has family in Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles, where two of the three major fires are blazing.
"We have Dallas firefighters who have family in California or are from California so it's very personal for us," he said. "Even though we're Dallas firefighters, we still feel a sense of family with all firefighters, and we're going out there to help our neighbors."
The Camp Fire, the largest of the three wildfires, has already become the deadliest and most destructive fire in the state's history, killing 42 people and destroying more than 7,600 structures, according to a report from The New York Times. The Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire are smaller fires in Southern California. The statewide death toll is 44 people, and about 250,000 Californians have been evacuated from their homes since the fires began last week.
On Saturday, California emergency officials contacted the Texas Division of Emergency Management for help through the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System. The TIFMAS is a program maintained by Texas A&M Forest Service, which can be invoked statewide for grants, training and mobilization.
“This is another solid example of Texas firefighters stepping up to help out," Stanford said. "This is the largest mobilization of Texas firefighting resources to another state to fight wildland fires."
According to Bisbee and a release from Texas A&M Forest Service, the assignment will help firefighters understand how to fight future fires in Dallas and surrounding areas.
"We have some of these issues in the area with drought problems," Bisbee said. "We go out there and we see the fires, see how they're handled and it makes us better prepared to serve our community here. We gain some experience."
The team is headed for Southern California, but Bisbee said the area they serve could change depending on where they're most needed.